By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
Race Results Weekly
For the second year in a row and third time since 2009, the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon will play host to the USA Marathon Championships, taking place on Sunday, October 5. In its 33rd year, the marathon will not only feature the USA Open Marathon Championships, but also the Masters Marathon championships as well. In advance of the race, Race Results Weekly previews six storylines to watch for come Sunday.
1 - First Time National Champions Again?: In 2013, Annie Bersagel and Nick Arciniaga each claimed the USA Marathon Championships title, their first victories at a national championships event. While neither are in the field to defend their titles, there are a number of athletes in contention for their first marathon crowns a la Bersagel and Arciniaga in 2013. Can the trend continue? On the men's side, Tyler McCandless, Ian Burrell, and Sean Quigley lead the charge, while Jeannette Faber, Esther Erb, Meghan Peyton, and Brianne Nelson front the women's field.
2 - Familiar Faces: Two athletes who have won here before are Sergio Reyes and Jeanette Faber. In 2010, Reyes broke the tape first in 2:14:02, winning his first and only USA Marathon title to date. Two years later in 2012, Faber bested the field by nearly a minute and a half to earn her victory in a personal best of 2:32:37. When Faber won, the event was not hosting the USA Marathon championships. It will be interesting to see if the experience and knowledge of what it takes to win in Minnesota will come into play for Reyes and Faber. Last year, Reyes finished fourth here in a personal best of 2:13:34.
3 - Pennel's Debut: Tyler Pennel of Reebok's ZAP Fitness team will make his marathon debut here. After bursting onto the scene last year with a third place finish at the .US National Road Racing Championships in Virginia, Pennel has consistently finished towards the front of races, especially when USA national titles are up for grabs. This year, Pennel has placed second at the AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta (the USA 10K National Championships) in a personal best 28:30, and fourth at the Aramco Half Marathon/USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston (1:01:44, also a lifetime best). He finished 33rd at the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships last March in 1:02:20.
4 - Sean Quigley and Esther Erb Return For More: In 2012, Sean Quigley finished in third place --first among Americans-- with a time of 2:15:06. Last year, Erb was third overall on the women's side, 2:34:32 her time. Could this be the year both slide up on the podium and take home the laurel wreath and $25,000 winners check? Both athletes have done well this season, including a national title for Quigley over 7 miles and a personal best of 2:33:15 for Erb at the Boston Marathon.
5 - Masters Titles: For the 24th consecutive year, the USA Masters Marathon championships will be on the line here. Mbarak Hussein, 49, is going for his fifth Master's title, while last year's runner-up Kevin Castille, 42, and ultra marathon specialist Michael Wardian vie for the title. Reigning champion and two-time Masters winner Sheri Piers, 43, of Maine returns and will attempt the three-peat for the women. Joining her on the line are 2000 Olympic triathlete Joanna Zeiger, 44, and Wisconsin's Wendi Ray, 41.
6 - Prize Money and Records: A prize purse of $145,000 is up for grabs at the USA Marathon Championships, including $25,000 going to both the men's and women's winners. If they break the course records (2:10:05 for men, set by Phil Coppess in 1985) or 2:26:51 for women (shared by Zinaida Semenova in 2001 and Irina Permitina in 2004), they'll earn an additional $25,000.
PHOTO: Esther Erb after winning the 2014 Litchfield Hills Road Race on June 8 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)